Monday, February 05, 2007

January 23, 2007 Meeting Minutes

Thirty one people attended a quarterly meeting of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance in Hutchinson. Patrick Moore of Clean Up the River Environment served as the facilitator of the meeting.

Patrick started it off by explaining the purpose of the Alliance and the meeting norms the group follows – Maintain clarity, keep it candor, remember humor, we strive to finish on time / on task, everyone shares air time and we have a bias toward action.

Communications Coordinator Report:
· Scott Kudelka provided a written report on the tasks he has been working on since starting on September 27th. Close to 95% of his time has been devoted to preparing for the Minnesota River Summit and follow up tasks. He also mentioned the MN River Stories booklet complied for the Summit and the goal to collect additional stories and also video tape people talking about their experiences with the Minnesota River and its tributaries. The report also highlighted tasks Scott will be working on over the next few months.

Minnesota River Summit:
· Larry Gunderson reported on the success of the Minnesota River Summit held in New Ulm on January 10th and 11th. The event was well attended both days with a total of 179 people participating. The summit celebrated the progress of improving water quality, people’s concerns and visions, along with using the Tipping Point methods to show how a few people can get things accomplished. Once the summary report is finished it will be sent out to all the participants and whoever might be interested in the results.

· An evaluation of the event was presented by Larry in a graph format. Overall there was a general positive feeling from the participants on the Summit. The group agreed a lot of good ideas / action items were brought forth by the participants.
· The next step is to strategically think about the top ideas or action items that came out and decide which ones to tackle. A meeting in April is being planned to bring three people from each of the stakeholder groups to continue the discussion. The hope is for people to look at these ideas generated at the Summit and use them in their own life or in organization.

· In late April the MPCA will be working with system people to put together a model to see how these action items might work. It allows for mapping things out and using people’s visions about the Minnesota River Watershed. Some of the group felt action on the results would be better than using them for system modeling. Patrick stated the Summit worked as the mining of collective intelligence. By bringing people together to work in a group situation we were able to gather a diverse selection of ideas and action items.

· On the second day Chantill Kahler-Royer thought it was good that each of the stakeholder groups got together and hopes this interaction can continue. She would like to see action on the idea of a river friendly business program. If a business met a specific criteria (an example would be the River Friendly Farmer program) they could highlight this label. This would let the public look for this label and a River Friendly business to refer their customers to other business with the label.

· The next step for the action items could be test marketing the collective wisdom by boiling them down and seeing how well it flies on a smaller scale with the public before rolling it out to the entire watershed. A form of niche marketing. To do this we need to generate a set of questions to ask the public about our findings.

· It was felt the Summit worked because of the structure dialogue with people who normally don’t talk to each other. This was historical for MPCA to bring in an outside facilitator to coordinate the discussion. Now it needs to be done on all levels, whether for county commissioners, DNR, etc.

Schmidt Foundation:
· Scott Sparlin and Bill Stangler of the Minnesota River Board met with the Schmidt Foundation board to discuss the CREP fundraising project. As a result the board has given $250,000 over two years for the CREP program. This money will be matched by another $500,000 by the federal government for permanent conservation easements. It is a 2 to 1 match. Scott felt the $3,000 raised at the Shallow Lakes Forum was also a success.

· Scott will be meeting with BWSR and Kevin Lines to map out a strategy for utilizing these funds. It is not the job of the Alliance to get landowners signed up – this will be taken care of by the local USDA field offices. There is a waiting list of people wanting to enroll land and critically sensitive land that fit the criteria of this program. It is on a first come, first serve basis. BWSR pays for restoration costs.

· We only have until December to raise additional money for CREP. The idea is to use the Schmidt Foundation money to build on the fundraising momentum. In order for the administrative costs to work out for BWSR a total of $400,000 may be raised. Scott Sparlin will be checking on this.

Big Stone II Coal Plant:
· Patrick reported on the letter approved by the Alliance and sent to the Governor and the two administrative judges. We raised the issue of allocating 3.2 billion gallons of water from the Minnesota River by the state of South Dakota without first talking to Minnesota. We received a response back from the Governor’s office through the DNR. The DNR has been charged with talking to the South Dakota DNR to reestablish Boundary Waters Commission. According to Patrick this is testimony to the power of a group like the Alliance. It showed how pressure from the public got the state to act. Letters were also sent by CURE, the Minnesota River Board and others.

Review of last meeting action items:
· Work is progressing on the school education campaign with Ron Bolduan. He has been working on the power-point presentation with help from Scott Kudelka. A list of schools in the Minnesota River Watershed was complied by interns at the Water Resources Center. Lori Nelson and Friends of the Minnesota Valley have been searching for individual contacts from each school.

· Action Item: Ron will begin making CREP presentation in schools located in the MN River Watershed. An informational letter on Ron’s CREP presentation will be sent out to all the schools and a follow-up phone call will be made.

· Lake Pepin’s annual conference will be held on February 7th in Arlington Hills. Patrick Moore has been asked to sit on a panel discussion and will talk about the CREP fundraising project. He will discuss how sediment from the Minnesota River Watershed has been a major impact on water quality issues with Lake Pepin. The people working on Lake Pepin have an invested interest in what is happening in the Minnesota River.

· Shannon Fisher talked about the matching funds we need to raise for the communication coordinator position. For the first year we need to raise $5,000, something that Shannon doesn’t see as a problem. He pointed out that Scott has been working on other grant projects like the Minnesota River Summit. Currently he has a call into Ron Kruse of the McKnight Foundation to see what works for a match. The first year match needs to be clarified through MSUM. He will be asking if the funds from the Schmidt Foundation can be used. There has been a question if we can use funds from another foundation as a match but nothing in writing. Shannon approached Excel Energy hoping to get funds for CREP but they don’t give money for land acquisitions. A question was raised if we need to set up a fundraising campaign or due structure to secure the match. The match will be $10,000 for year two and $15,000 for the third year.

· Patrick Moore contacted the Southeast Regional Foundation about using their facilities for our meetings but they have no procedures set up for night events. Instead he found the New Century Charter School facility. The group agreed to continue using this facility as a meeting location.

· We will continue to offer food during the social hour since money is budgeted for this expense. If people want to donate to the cause that would be great.

· Lori Nelson reported the application deadline for the Beldon Foundation is in the fall. The Beldon Foundation is going out of business in two years and currently spending down its principal. Minnesota is a priority area for the foundation. There was discussion about looking at other national foundations for grant money. It was suggested to develop a strategy on who is contacting whom. Another suggestion was for the completion of one well written grant application to be sent out. There should be interface with Shannon and Scott at the Water Resources Center on this issue. Lauren Klement mentioned how there are grant libraries located throughout the state that should be checked out.

· Action Item: Lori will take the lead on coming up with a strategy for approaching / researching foundations for grant money with help from Patrick Moore, Lauren Klement, Linda Meschke and Rich Smith.

CREP Campaign – Who will do what:
· The Alliance agreed to work on the CREP fundraiser because these permanent easements on the flood plain showed instant benefits and the state wasn’t going to provide the matching monies. We can raise up to $7 million for 15,000 acres and have $253,000 pledged for CREP. One goal is to raise another $150,000 to reach a total of $400,000.

· A list of potential organizations – Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Waterfowl Association, Rough Grouse – to contact about CREP funding were suggested by the group. We need to stress how this a program pays for permanent easements that provide great habitat and will double a group’s contribution.

· Action Item: Kevin Bigalke volunteered to contact Pheasants Forever through the state biologists and coordinator. The idea will be to pitch the fundraising effort to the local chapters through their spring banquets. Our goal of $400,000 can be reached if 30 chapters gave $5,000 each. The group felt Pheasants Forever is a big player even if they are primarily interested in buying land for public use.

· Action Item: A communication piece to be developed by Scott Kudelka, Chantill Kahler-Royer, Michelle Thelen, John White, Patrick Moore and Kevin Bigalke by February 17th will be sent out to the Pheasants Forever chapters. We will stress how giving $5,000 can translate into $15,000.

· Action Item: Joel Anderson, Rob Collett, and Shannon Fisher will contact John Schneider and Bob Usguard of Ducks Unlimited. Currently Ducks Unlimited is involved in their $10 million Shallow Lakes Initiative. Scott Sparlin reported that the state chapter is opposed to permanent easements while the national office and local chapters support them.

· Other groups to contact could include the Nature Conservancy, Wild Turkey Federation and sport fishing clubs. No action or decision to contact them by the group was made.

· Action Item: The fundraising letter put together by the planning team will be updated to include the Schmidt Foundation grant by Scott Kudelka and sent out to the Alliance participants to be used for the CREP fundraising efforts.

Letter Writing Protocol:
· In regard to the letters sent out to the Governor and Administrative Judges on the Big Stone Coal Plant project, Scott Sparlin felt there needs to be a set of safeguards in place to make sure the Alliance participants have a say in what is being sent out by this organization. The group felt they want to continue sending letters as a positive vehicle for expressing our concerns about a particular issue.

· Action Item: Scott Kudelka will put together a protocol for future letter writing campaigns. The group recommended if a person is interested in having a letter sent by the Alliance they would submit it Scott two weeks prior to the next Quarterly meeting. Scott would send it out to the Alliance participants for their review and than voted on by the group at the next meeting. A majority – 75% of those assembled – would be needed if the letter would be sent out from the Alliance.

Other Issues:
· Productive Conservation: it is another conservation-related tool to be used like the third crop initiative, which plants perennial crops like prairie grasses for biomass or hazelnuts. Linda Meschke gave a brief report on the Madelia Project. To solve water quality problems in the Greater Blue Earth Watershed they are using a model to plant 20% of 9.1 million acres of cropland into perennial crops for biomass. Eventually they want to bring this model to other places in the Minnesota River Watershed.

· Turbidity TMDL: Larry Gunderson was asked to report on the status of this project. In the Minnesota River Watershed 18 reaches have been identified as not meeting the water standards for this pollutant. A technical committee has been meeting for just over a year and is looking to develop a model to see what BMPs could affect water quality. Larry would like to see more representation from environmental groups, tribal members and elected officials.

· Rain Gardens: Al Odenthal reported on the New Auburn project to install 41 rain gardens for treating stormwater runoff and improve water quality in High Island Lake. Chantill has worked on a number of rain garden projects including New Auburn and volunteered to talk with any group interested in this concept.

· CURE annual meeting: Patrick Moore invited people to annual meeting on February 10th (Saturday) at the Hollywood Theater, Main Street in Montevideo from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mark Seely, U of M Meteorologist will talk about Minnesota weather patterns. The event will also feature food, drink, door prizes and a silent auction.

· Ecological System Restoration: Rich Smith talked about how 150 years ago we started on a path of degrading the prairie ecosystem, a valuable ecosystem just like the rain forest. In order to improve water quality in the Minnesota River we need to restore the ecosystem around it. This means focusing on something other than subsidized farming. It includes replacing cattle with bison, an animal meant to graze. Utilize wind power over coal. We are the Saudi Arabia of potential wind production with the Buffalo Gap. Instead of building ethanol plants for corn we need to use prairie grasses. Some people felt this was a polarizing concept and could lead to others dismissing the idea completely.

· Septic System Funding: Michelle Thelen talked about a loan program available through the Minnesota Tourism Department to replace out-of-compliance systems for tourism business.

· SWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year Program: Lauren Klement talked about how Sibley County SWCD has only picked conservation farmers who used a bulldozer to complete projects and haven’t looked at those farmers who plant filter strips, restore wetlands or utilize conservation tillage.

· Watershed Management Legislative Audit: Kevin Bigalke reported how the State Auditors office looks at programs on a policy basis and recently conducted one on watershed management by examining watershed districts, SWCDs, joint power boards, BWSR etc. There could be ratification in terms of legislative oversight when it comes to watershed management, specifically how BWSR oversees watershed districts and how joint powers board have no oversight.

· Minnesota River Joint Powers Board: Shannon Fisher reported a bill has been jacketed by Terry Morrow to provide an annual appropriation of $92,000 to the MN River Board. This would replace the funding lost in 2001. The counties will bump up their match. Letters of support about this funding to local representatives would be greatly appreciated. At this time Terry Morrow is looking for co-sponsors on both sides of the legislature.

· Clean Water Legacy: A question was raised if any bill has been put forth to continue funding for the Clean Water Legacy program. The Governor has $40 million in his budget and $11 million for two years has been put in the BWSR budget. Patrick Moore mentioned CURE will have a bus lined up to go to the capital for the February 21st Clean Water Rally.

· Next Meeting; April 17th (Tuesday) at the New Century Charter School, 6 p.m. Social Hour and 7 to 9 p.m. Meeting (subject to change).

· Ron Bolduan,
· Richard Fish,
· Patrick Moore,
· Scott Sparlin,
· Dee Czech,
· Michael Lein,
· Larry Gunderson,
· Loren Engelby,
· Lori Nelson,
· Chantill Kahler-Royer,
· Tom Royer,
· Greg Mikkelson,
· Rich Smith,
· Richard Harp,
· Margaret Harp,
· John G. White,
· Dennis Gibson,
· Robert Collett,
· Dick Kroger,
· Michelle Thelen,
· Lauren Klement,
· Shannon Fisher,
· Joel Anderson,
· Linda Meschke,
· Bob Hartkopf,
· James Fett,
· Al Odenthal,
· Kerry Wuetherich,
· Kevin Bigalke,
· Forrest Peterson,
· Scott Kudelka